The World Series by Renault features identical cars designed to provide a stepping-stone to Formula One, and indeed it has already established its credentials.
In its previous guise as the World Series by Nissan it nurtured the talents of Fernando Alonso, who won the series in 1999. More recently it has helped promote Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica, who took the championship titles in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
The series was taken over by Renault in 2005, and since then Renault have been offering the winner of the World Series by Renault 3.5 litre championship a special prize, a go in the team's Formula One car.
Like previous winners Kubica and Alx Danielsson, Alvaro Parente got his chance to have a go in the ING Renault F1 team's car in Jerez de la Frontera on the team's final day for the first round of pre-season testing.
The F1 experience for Parente was not just a case of turning up to the circuit, as on 8th January 2008 he visited the teams team's UK base at Enstone, Oxfordshire to mould his seat and conduct technical briefings.
He then joined the team in Jerez to get a feel for how the test team operated, and on the last day of testing (January the 17th) he got behind the wheel of the R27 for the first time. The young Portuguese driver completed 64 laps on his first day in an F1 car at the Circuito Permanente de Jerez in Southern Spain.
"The past few days with the ING Renault F1 Team have been the best possibl way to understand how a title winning team works" commented Parente. "Everything was new to me, especially seeing so many people around the car and watching the telemetry!
"I was most impressed by the speed I could carry through the high-speed sections and the g-forces. I was expecting the braking to be very powerful, and I adapted to this quite quickly," he added.
The conditions were good, and under sunny skies Parente got to grips with the car initially doing short runs of three to five laps. The experience continued in the afternoon, with the team making set-up changes to the R27 in order to gather his feedback.
"I learned something new on every run, the times improved steadily and I tried to give the engineers good feedback" Parente said.
Parente knows where he wants to be in the future, he comments "It was a fantastic day, with positive results in every sense. I hope I can use the experience to my advantage for the next stage of my career."
Christian Silk, Chief Test Engineer said, "We built today's programme to suit Alvaro's first drive in an F1 car. The most important thing was to get him comfortable in the car, and feeling confident, which we tried to do with the short runs this morning.
"All the way through, Alvaro took a very intelligent approach. He didn't try and set the world alight this morning, but found his feet steadily, improved and set some respectable times during the afternoon."
Parente set his fastest time on new tyres at the end of the day, with a lap of 1:21.721.
"He spent a lot of time talking with the engineers, and I think that we all felt it was an encouraging day. We hope today's experience will allow him to find a good drive for the coming season," said Silk.